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Inmates may soon fight house fires in Georgia county

October 11, 2011 |  8:41 am

Firefighters
Sure, they may save your house from burning. But will they jack your flat-screen on the way out?

In what would be a money-saving move, officials in Camden County, Ga., are considering placing inmates in fire stations alongside professional firefighters, where they would respond to house fires and other day-today emergencies, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Inmate firefighters are used in some states, such as California, the paper points out, but they are usually confined to battling wildfires, and are supervised by a guard. Camden County commissioners are thinking about having them monitored by working firefighters, who would go through a training program to supervise the inmates effectively.

Times-Union reporter Tiffany Pakkala notes that the program would be open only to low-level offenders, such as thieves and drug dealers, who have demonstrated good behavior behind bars.

Still, some firefighters are less than thrilled about the idea. One recently asked the county commissioners if they'd be comfortable having the inmates respond to a night call at their houses.

Nearby Sumter County already has inmates working alongside firefighters, though it's unclear from the report whether they respond to house fires. Officials there love the idea: Because an inmate doesn't get time off, one incarcerated worker can replace three wage-earning firefighters.

Camden County is considering the idea because of a change in the insurance rating system that would cause homeowners' premiums to skyrocket unless new substations are built or more firefighters are added.

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-- Richard Fausset

Photo: Inmate firefighters in Tehachapi, Calif., in 2010. Credit: John W. Adkisson / Los Angeles Times

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